Monthly Archives: August 2009

>Street Smarts

>I lived an object lesson on Wednesday while I was driving to visit my fall placement school. The road I was driving was under heavy construction and it was hard to see the street signs. I saw a sign reading Clime Rd Detour, and I knew Clime was past Briggs, which was the road I was looking for, so I turned around before the stoplight. The next road I came to was Eakin, which I knew was before Briggs, so I was extremely confused. I stopped at a Kroger store to ask directions, and the clerk told me that the next stoplight–the one I had turned around at–was, in fact, Briggs. The sign meant Briggs was the detour for Clime. If I hadn’t turned back too soon, I would have saved myself about ten minutes of going in circles.

Right away I realized God was reminding me not to give up right before I get where I’m going. I’m conflict-avoidant, so I usually just run away. You’d be hard-pressed to accuse me of being stubborn because I grew up with a parent whose M.O. often seemed to be, “My way, or the high way.” But I guess I just need to trust my Directions to get me where I need to go. I know this is a general lesson, but there is also a specific situation currently that this might apply to, but I haven’t gotten directions for that yet except to wait…

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>Resting in Desolation

>”The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.” -2 Chronicles 36:21

Forgive the hyperbole, but it has been a year of desolation. I left on the Taiwan mission trip on this day last year, which itself was a year after I had the rug pulled out from under me by someone I thought I knew and trusted. The mission trip was difficult yet gratifying, but it turned out to be the high point from which I sank steadily downward for about eight months. The first four months after I came back from Taiwan were marked by a vague but growing sense of discomfort; for all my efforts to seek God, I seemed to be sliding back into that dreadful numbness I knew at the end of my freshman year.

I came up for air at the winter youth retreat, then was dragged to the depths with a vengeance. My body sort of fell apart after four years of anorexia; inexplicably, I gained about ten pounds in about two months’ time, to which I responded by active purging in many forms, which only made things worse, of course. (Ironically, my outer life couldn’t have looked better: I made a 4.0 that quarter and was selected for a scholarship interview and a national quiz show.) It was then that I was once again plagued by the gnawing fear that things were never going to get better from that point. I saw a viral video of a child’s post-operative behavior under the influence of laughing gas, and he mumbles groggily, “I feel funny. Why is this happening to me? Is this going to be forever???” And that’s how I felt all the time. (I should note that throughout this entire period I was torn between maintaining and exorcising a past relationship, which I now realize was a significant drain on my emotional resources.)

Things turned when I started going to a Christian support group for women with eating disorders. Meeting others who knew exactly what I was talking about because they had been there…and beaten it…brought me to a turning point and I declared my first victory over my disorder. In keeping with the spring season, my life bloomed again, and I found myself wishing that things could, indeed, be like they were then forever. Of course, all things must come to an end, but this end did not mean a return to sorrow but a transition to something new, which I am in the midst of right now.

A passage from Elisabeth Elliott’s devotion for today:

There are dry, fruitless, lonely places in each of our lives, where we seem to travel alone, sometimes feeling as though we must surely have lost the way. What am I doing here? How did this happen? Lord, get me out of this!
He does not get us out. Not when we ask for it, at any rate, because it was He all along who brought us to this place. He has been here before–it is no wilderness to Him, and He walks with us. There are things to be seen and learned in these apparent wastelands which cannot be seen and learned in the “city”–in places of comfort, convenience, and company.

I usually characterize the summer after my freshman year the worst period of my life. When I compare this past year with that summer, I think that the circumstances may indeed have been worse this year, but the difference is that this time I did not hide from God as I did then. I cried out for Him, and He answered with silence only to let me cry out more. When I strove to fix things myself, He put up walls to absorb the brunt of my futility so He could, finally, carry my powerless self. (Quite literally, He hit me with a car to break my compulsion to exercise!) In the past I would have resented this way of teaching, and many times I still grow terribly discouraged. But I often take encouragement from the book of Hosea:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
“In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’

Hosea 2:14-16

Life is a cycle of desolation, rest, and restoration, and each enhances the experience of the other. I don’t pretend to remember this all the time, but I try. Now the question is, Am I resting now or being restored?

>Wabi-Sabi

>A few months ago we had a series of discussions in church titled, “Wabi-sabi,” which refers to the Japanese aesthetic beauty in the imperfect. The timing of that series coincided with the “crucible” period of my recovery from eating disorder. Just now, as I was uploading my profile picture, I got another dose of wabi-sabi from nature.

This was taken in the butterfly habitat of our local conservatory. I titled this shot, “Survivor,” in honor of the wound, but I just realized that I can only see the beauty of the far wing because of the tear in the near one! And Lord, if that isn’t a timely message. Several weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I would be willing to have another relationship that did not turn out to be “the one.” During my prayer time on Saturday, I finally said, “Yes,” even though I was afraid of irretrievably losing some part of myself during the process, because I realized that is what change is all about and maybe that’s what it would take to make me the woman my husband could marry. But then hearing the song, “Here Comes Goodbye” by Rascal Flatts, triggered a reflux of remembered/anticipated pain that almost had me saying No forever. But…I won’t.

Unbreakable (Maia Sharp)

This time I really took a hard fall
I never thought I’d get myself back
Together trying to do it all alone
Next time will I have the courage
To face it or take my broken heart and
Replace it with a block of stone?

I don’t want to be unbreakable
Safe from anyone who could ever love me
Perfect and empty
I’d rather a crack in a glass half full
I don’t want to be unbreakable

I want someone who could wreck me
But wouldn’t if I’m ever gonna get this right
I shouldn’t think I’d be a stranger to pain
Same love that’s strong enough to hurt me
Is gonna be strong enough to save me
It’ll all be in vain if I remain unbreakable

What else can I do?
As bad as it feels to be broken in two,
I don’t want to be unbreakable.

>The Great Divorce

>I picked up The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis) at the recommendation of a male classmate who, ironically, was the locus of my relational angst this week. Initially I had demurred, saying, “I don’t think I need to read that at this point in my life,” despite having absolutely no idea what the book was actually about. I thought it might have something to do with relational breaks, and the story itself did not, but I ended up reaching some resolution about that issue anyway. Funny how God works, isn’t it?

My favorite part is when the narrator witnesses the conversation between a Lady, “one of the great ones” who did good to children and animals alike, and a Ghost that was her husband on earth. She asks his forgiveness for all the wrong she did him on earth and tries to persuade him to receive joy, but he ultimately refuses, choosing instead to play the Tragedian and be offended when she says she will not be sad if he goes. He returns to Hell and, true to her word, she goes on her joyful way. The narrator is perplexed, but his Teacher explains it thus:

The action of Pity will live for ever: but the passion of Pity will not…the ache that draws men to concede what should not be conceded and to flatter when they should speak truth, the pity that has cheated many a woman out of her virginity…that will die. It was used as a weapon by bad men against good ones: their weapon will be broken.

And as I reflected, I asked myself: Do I take up Christ’s joy so completely that _____ cannot steal it from me through his own rejection of joy? Then will I be ready to speak to him. I remember at times feeling sad that I wasn’t sadder for what I lost, but I realize now that is the final act of giving him over to Christ: giving over my grief as well. Do I still care about him? Yes. Do I still pray for him? Until I die, most likely. But is his pain my problem, and do I try to save him myself? No. My prayer is always this, If there’s anything I can do…thy will be done.

>Passion and Purity

>Two weeks ago I reached the point of being willing and able to accept my ex-boyfriend as a part of my past, and myself as a “girl with a past” in terms of relationships. (Yes, it took two years, but I’m a slow learner. So sue me.) Almost immediately weird little things started happening to test the depth of my acceptance of singleness, and I had a slight allergic reaction to the universe as a result.

Emotionally hungover and theologically perplexed, I holed up yesterday with Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity and was promptly kicked in the face for about five hours, but felt incredibly refreshed when I was done. I can’t begin to say enough about this woman, married thrice and widowed twice, except that she is, of all people, qualified to write a book on love. She and her first husband Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in South America, waited five years for God to make His will clear about their singleness, and in that time they didn’t even really have a “relationship” as we might understand it today. She argued the idea of “going steady” was actually a form of impatience:

The couple are not ready for marriage or even for the public commitment that engagement ought to entail, but neither are they ready to leave each other in God’s hands…each clutches at the other, fearful lest he “get away.”

My mom actually questioned me on this when I said my first boyfriend and I were “committed.” She did not understand the use of the intermediate extra step of pseudocommitment, and Elliot cautions women against giving any man reason to presume she belongs to him. Beyonce has a point: “If you like it, then you should put a ring on it!”

I am always all too willing to throw myself at people, or worse, try to entice them. To borrow from Captivating, women should be inviting but not clinging.

If you should marry ________ in the end, would you want to live with the knowledge that you went after him? He might resent you for snaring him. You might despise him for allowing you to….[for] we prize what we cannot easily get. We take for granted, we even come to despise, that which costs us no effort.

The book’s biggest challenge to me was the idea of waiting for a husband–not a boyfriend, a significant other, whatever.

…when you get to the point where you can’t keep your hands off each other, it’s time to get married…[her father counseled his sons] never say ‘I love you’ to a woman until they were ready to follow immediately with “Will you marry me?” Nor should they think of saying, “Will you marry me?” unless they had first said, “I love you.”

Could I wait for this? It may be what I need most, actually, because over the years, so many boys and men have liked me, but only one, perhaps, has wanted me, and he not enough to pay the full price, though I am choosing to give him credit for knowing (eventually) that he couldn’t pay it and still treating me honorably. That is a deep, deep wound that has yet to be healed, perhaps only through relationship.

Of course, as my friend asked pointedly, am I willing to go through another failed relationship just to learn that lesson? Truthfully, I don’t know. My greatest fear at this point is not the pain but the emotional capital and time I would invariably waste in the process. (Remember, it took almost two years to get the first one through my system!) I don’t know if that’s theologically sound, but I’m no theologian anyway and that’s what scares me. But at least I am more at peace with what I should be doing now, and that’s something else I’m constantly learning, to trust God from one moment to the next.